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4                   HISTORY OF PERSIA
practise baptism and ceremonial ablutions, hold the book
of Psalms to be sacred, and adore especially the north
star.1 Edwin Arnold has expressed the debt due to
Sabeanism in the following words: <c Islam was bonrin
the desert, with Arab Sabeanism for its mother and
Judaism for its father; its foster-nurse was Eastern
Christianity." There is much truth in this view.
The ancient Arabians had seven temples, dedicated to
the seven planets. They also worshipped goddesses,
three of whom are mentioned in the Koran under the
names of Allat, the special idol of Mecca; Al-Ur/a,2 the
planet Venus; and Mana, a sacred stone. There was also
an idol for every day of the year in the temple at Mecca.
The Kaaba.—The centre of worship at Mecca was the
Kaaba.8 This sacred temple contained, embedded in the
eastern corner, a reddish-black stone, which is believed to
be a meteorite; it is semicircular in shape and very small,
measuring only some six inches by eight* Th«s was
reverently kissed by pilgrims, who made seven circuits
round the sacred building. In the case of the cc Lesser
Pilgrimage" it was also necessary to walk seven times
between the hills of Safa and Marwa; and in the "Greater
Pilgrimage " Arafat, a small hill to the east of Mecca, had
to be visited, stones had to be cast against the Kvil One
in the Mina valley, and the pilgrimage concluded by the
sacrifice of victims. The strength of Jewish influence
accounts for the reputed connexion of this pro-Moslem
ritual with Abraham; the deserted Ishmael is believed to
have discovered the sacred well Zemzem by kicking the
ground, and it was Abraham and Isaac who built the
Kaaba and instituted the pilgrimage.
The Ancestors of the Prophet Mohamet—Among the
Arabs birth was of the first importance, and consequently
a brief account must be given of Mohamed's ancestry and
tribe. Towards the middle of the fifth century a certain
1  Vide Zwemer's Arabia, the Cradle ofhlam, chap, xxviii,, for an mterwting account
of the modern Sabeans,   The Arabs gave them the name of Al^M^htmil^ or "The
Washers," from their ceremonial ablutions, and this, being miiundcratooti by the Portu-
guese, gave rise to the misnomer mentioned above.   «fc
2  It was in honour of this goddeas that Mundhir, the Saracen Prince of Him, lacri-
ficed 400 nuns, as mentioned in Chapter XXXIX,
8 The word signifies a cube,